Hilo to Honoka’a – 52.2 mi, 7,374’ elevation gain
The heavy storm due to hit the windward coast of Hawaii failed to materialize. We were able to start out with a full ration of sunshine again. John, the owner of Dolphin Bay, served us delicious cinnamon muffins and fruit for breakfast again. He was most gracious and very helpful during our entire stay. When we told him we might skip Akaka Falls due to the tough climb needed to see it, he replied he’d reserve the dates for us again next year, plus the rental car.
Highway 19 on the Hamakua Coast was another great road. The traffic wasn’t too bad, the shoulder was almost always wide and clean. The scenery was spectacular. This was the first time it felt like we were riding along the coast. The ocean was always in view. Plus, since this was the wet side of the island, the vegetation was much more lush. Many of the plants we saw were the same as our well-known houseplants… on steroids. HUGE mother-in-law tongue, philodendrons, rubber trees, jade, and many others. Also a wide array of fragrant blooms (gardenias, wild ginger) and tropical fruits including bananas, mangos and papayas.
We took the Onomea Scenic Bypass early in the day. It wound us deeper into the rainforest. The road was littered with fallen fruit and palm fronds. We passed a large botanical garden two hours before opening time. It would have been a nice detour.
We had tailwinds all day and we generally were moving pretty good. So we decided to take the side trip to Akaka Falls. The initial climb to the town of Honamu was incredibly steep. We stopped at a local’s home and asked if we could drop off our panniers before continuing the climb. She graciously said we could. We had a pleasant chat before grinding up the 3 mile, 1,700 foot climb to the falls. Along the way we passed through large sugar cane fields. Turns out that the cane industry is pretty much gone from the Big Island. It’s been replaced by macadamia nut and coffee production.
There was a half-mile walk around the falls. We got a glimpse of Kahuna Falls before seeing the 420 foot drop which was Akaka Falls. It was a wonderful sight, though I still think that Snoqualmie is more impressive since it has a much greater flow.
We continued traveling up the coast passing over numerous narrow bridges across small, verdant ravines. They often sported waterfalls on the uphill side and wide vistas as they opened to the sea. We also had to drop through 3 major gulches. These had fast, steep, twisty descents which turned into slow, steep, twisty, and WINDY ascents. It was amazing that we always had a headwind climbing up out of a gulch. The gusts were strong enough to bring us to a complete standstill at times.
We had a pleasant lunch at a park in Papalua visiting with a family from Oahu. Then we rode on. And on. And on. And on.
The combination of heat and humidity began to do us in again. By the time we arrived in Honoka`a, I was very cranky. Then we couldn’t find our hotel. Once we did find it, we couldn’t check in until 4 p.m. because the owner was on her daily break. It was less than pleasant. We wandered the town and eventually ate an early dinner at the health food store’s Indian restaurant. We felt very lucky because the restaurant was only open two days a week. The dahl was particularly scrumptious.
Obviously, we opted to NOT ride out to the Waipio Valley overlook. It would have added 16 miles to an already long, hot day. We just didn’t have the legs for it. It was much easier to just lay back and not do anything during the afternoon’s heat.
Still, it had been a full and beautiful day.